The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
Drawing D57,253 of 10/6/40 [Photo 2] is much more valuable. It was found in the KL Mauthausen correspondence, attached to a Topf letter of 23rd November 1940 in which the firm extolled the virtues of its products and assured the Mauthausen Bauleitung that they had made the “right choice”, telling them that KL Auschwitz already had a similar furnace in activity and had just ordered another. Topf had enclosed with their letter a drawing of the furnace produced for Auschwitz. The coke-fired, double-muffle furnace ordered by KL Mauthausen for the Gusen subcamp [Lager Unterkunft Gusen] was installed in 1941, and is miraculously still there today. A second furnace, whose metal components were first sent in August 1942 by in entirely deliberate error to Auschwitz and then forwarded, was built at the Mauthausen main camp [Photos 2a, 2b, 2c and 2d].

Historically, the letter of 23/11/40 and the attached drawing of 10/6/40 cross check with the chronology put forward by Danuta Czech in her “Calendar of events in the Auschwitz Birkenau camp”, where the work of transforming the old powder magazine (or dry goods store) of the Austro Hungarian barracks into a crematorium [Krematorium I] is said to have started on 5th July 1940. The letter indicates that two double muffle furnaces were installed at first, and this was indeed the case.

Technically, Drawing D57,253 makes it possible to situate the underfloor smoke flues in Auschwitz Krematorium I and to see that the reconstruction of two furnaces effected by the Poles after the war is far from being a faithful reproduction of the original state, in particular as regards the coke-fired hearths at the rear of the furnaces. The exaggerated simplification of the cross-section means that the smoke evacuation path in the furnace and the positions of the pulsed air vents remain unknown. The cremation capacity of the Gusen double-muffle furnace was estimated in a Topf letter of 14th July 1941 addressed to KL Mauthausen [although Gusen acquired a very large degree of autonomy from Mauthausen, it still depended on the latter as regards cremation matters] as being from 10 to 35 corpses 10 hours of operation [see Reimund Schnable, “Macht ohne Moral” (Might without morals). Röderbergverlag, Frankfurt am Main 1957, page 346]. If we arbitrarily take the maximum figure of 35, this gives a total capacity of 84 corpses in 24 hours, so that three such furnaces could cremate 252 corpses in 24 hours. Auschwitz Krematorium I, which actually had three such furnaces, was officially stated to have a throughput of 340 corpses a day, or one third higher than the Topf maximum figure. It is impossible to know whether this was the usual SS exaggeration or a true figure.

Translation of inscriptions:
Schnitt A B/ Section A-B
· Einführuagstür / Corpse loading door
· Ascheentnahmetür / [Human] ash removal door
Schnitt C D / Section C D
[Plan view Lower left]
· Schienen for den Etnführungswagen / Rails for the [corpse] loading trolley
· Schornstein 10-14 m hoch / Chimney 10 14 m high
· Saugzugaalage / Forced draught installation
· Rauchkanal / Smoke flue
· Koksgenerator / Coke fired hearth
· Schacht / Pit
· Aufbahrungsraum and Leichenzellen / Laying out room and corpse cells
Schnitt a b/ Section a b
· OK Fussboden / Floor level
Ofenfundament / Furnace foundations
· Grundriß / Plan view
· Holzklötze 80/140 100 tief einsetzen / 80 × 140 wooden blocks set 100 deep
Alle Masse sind in mm angegeben / All dimensions are given in mm